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The NPLEx effect on Tennessee pseudoephedrine sales

You must have a valid driver's license or state ID to purchase pseudoephedrine
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Late last summer your Intrepid Pharmacist reported on a new system called NPLEx that would function as a statewide live/real-time pseudoephedrine purchase database. You can read that article here. Under the state law all pharmacies in the state dispensing pseudoephedrine, the base ingredient for making methamphetamine, had to be linked in to the NPLEx system by January 1, 2012.

This past week the state of Tennessee released the results of the first month of NPLEx use. According to a statement from released through the Tennessee State Senate’s newsroom in the month of January 2012 the NPLEx system blocked sales of 4,993 boxes of pseudoephedrine, amounting to 13,000 grams (or 13 kilograms) of the drug.

The actual effect on meth labs can be assumed but not accurately quantified at this point, however doe to funding issues left over from last year. In February of 2011 the federal government announced it would no longer pay for meth lab cleanups, prompting high dollar eating states such as Tennessee to actually do something about the known and growing problem besides talk about it. 2010 had seen a record number of labs busts passing the 2,000 mark. 2011 was on track to match or pass 2010.

The federal funding for lab cleanups, which runs in the thousands of dollars per lab due to the toxic/hazardous nature of the production process’s by-products, ended on July 1, 2011. From that date the number of meth lab seizures dropped by about 75% according to Tommy Farmer, head of the Meth Lab Test Force. Your Intrepid Pharmacist notes that the lab seizure count and year over year comparison that used to appear on the Meth Task Force’s main web page [http://www.rid-meth.org/Default.aspx] is gone and has been replaced by a summary that carries through 2010.

So at this point, with funding cuts driving the drop in lab seizures for the last six months of 2011, one can only assume that the NPLEx’s first month’s blocked sales totals have had a meaningful effect on the number of meth labs able to produce methamphetamine. The more pressing issue for lawmakers and law enforcement is how quickly the meth makers hit their learning curve.

A large drop in pseudoephedrine sales and meth lab seizures was seen in 2006 when the nationwide meth law went into effect, limiting the amont of drug that could be purchased in a day and in a month. Within 18 months, however, meth producers had already figured ways around the system and the lab seizure numbers began their rapid climb to the record levels seen in 2009 and 2010. One nice feature of the NPLEx system, which the Senate news release highlights, is that will help thwart a repeat of the post-2006 law. NPLEx also “contains the names of 2,354 individuals who, due to previous meth-related offenses, are not permitted to purchase medicines containing [pseudoephedrine]. In January, the NPLEx system kept 111 of those offenders from making 222 [pseudoephedrine] purchases.”

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